All Big 12 football schedules are not the same.
That was even the case in the past when the league consisted of 10 teams playing round-robin conference schedules, as the strength of the non-conference slates often varied widely.
With the Big 12 consisting of 14 members (at least for this year, currently slated to drop to 12 starting in 2024), conference schedules within the league will also become uneven. The conference teams will play nine league games each, meaning everyone will dodge four Big 12 foes this coming season and two in subsequent years after Texas and Oklahoma leave in 2024.
The schedules during the conference are not equal, because the power of that slate will be determined to a large extent by who avoids whom.
In 2023, for example, here’s who each team will NOT play against:
Baylor BYU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas
BYU Baylor, Central Florida, Kansas State, Houston
UCF BYU, Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State
Cincinnati Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU
Houston Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, BYU
state of Iowa WVU, Oklahoma State, Houston, Texas Tech
Kansas WVU, Baylor, TCU, Cincinnati
the state of Kansas WVU, Oklahoma, BYU, Cincinnati
Oklahoma Texas Tech, Houston, Kansas State, Baylor
Oklahoma state Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Texas
TCU Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Central Florida, Kansas
Texas WVU, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Central Florida
Texas Tech Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma State, Iowa
West Virginia Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State
The individual schools (supposedly) don’t have much to say about which Big 12 teams they face and which they don’t. So while league schedules may be uneven, neither team can do much about that strength or weakness.
Besides, who knows whose schedule for the conference is the best right now, because it’s often difficult to predict the final standings during the preseason? Last year, for example, TCU finished top of the Big 12 regular season rankings with a 9-0 league record, and the Horned Frogs advanced to the CFP national championship game with a 13-2 overall mark. Still, TCU was picked last summer to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason poll. And Kansas State (10-4/7-2), which finished second last year in the regular season and knocked out TCU in the conference championship game, was the No. 5 pick in the preseason poll. Baylor was No. 1 in that preseason poll, followed by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but none of those three had a winning league record as the regular season ended.
So you can never be sure which conference schedule will be toughest and which will be easiest prior to the start of the season. However, if you just want to follow the historical context, with Texas and Oklahoma being the traditional top powers of the league, each Big 12 team will play at least one of the OU/UT pair this year, while four will play both (BYU, Kansas , Iowa State and TCU).
Trying to rate a non-conference schedule is a little easier, as evaluating it is mostly based on Power 5, Group of 5, and FCS enemies. And for the most part, each school can plan on the fly how strong or how weak they want for their non-conference competition.
As has been the case annually since 2018, West Virginia again faces two Power 5 opponents (at Penn State, Pitt) this season among the three non-conference foes. That trend of two P5 opponents not in conference will end for the Mountaineers after 2024, when they start an annual slate with a P5, a G5 and an FCS.
No one else in the Big 12 is doing the double Power 5 this season. Ten other league programs will face one non-conference Power 5 in 2023, and three will play none (Houston, Oklahoma, and UCF).
I give a bit of a pass on the non-conference scheduling of the four new Big 12 members (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF) as it takes some time to adjust future college football schedules since most of those contracts are well written advance. Still, I’m not sure what Oklahoma’s excuse is, as the Sooners are headed to the SEC with their weakest non-COVID non-conference program (Arkansas State, SMU, and Tulsa) in the past decade, having previously had people if Notre Dame, Tennessee had met. , Ohio State, UCLA and Nebraska.
On the other end of the Power 5 spectrum are the FCS foes, and 11 of the Big 12s 14 teams will face an FCS opponent this year, except for Houston (although the Cougar will receive Sam Houston, who received an FCS last year club was but now moving to Conference USA this year), Oklahoma and Texas.
Meanwhile, Baylor and TCU are the only Big 12 squads not to head out for a non-conference game this fall.
The Big 12’s toughest non-conference schedule
It is undoubtedly West Virginia. While the Mountaineers face an FCS foe this year in Duquesne, they also meet the top 10 Penn State in State College, as well as hosting Pitt, who enters the 2023 season on the cusp of the top 25. After WVU, I placed the non conference slates from Kansas State (Southeast Missouri State, Troy, and Missouri) and Kansas (Missouri State, Illinois, and Nevada) as the next two toughest.
Weakest non-conference schedule
The three Big 12 teams that don’t face a non-conference Power 5 opponent this season (Houston, Oklahoma and UCF) should all share this infamous title. That’s especially true for Oklahoma, which likes to consider itself an annual national title contender, but lowers its standards this year by playing two teams from The American (Tulsa and SMU) and one from the Sun Belt (State of Arkansas). Poor as the Sooners non-conference slate is, the low bar is set by Houston, who faces two from The American (UTSA and Rice) and an FBS entrant in his first year in C-USA (Sam Houston). Granted, UTSA was good for his level last year (11-3), but Rice was poor (5-8) and Sam Houston (5-4) will play against Texas A&M-Commerce, Utah Tech, Tarleton State and Abilene Christian in 2022 . A trip to Boise State helps UCF keep Houston one step ahead, as the Knights also host Villanova, which has traditionally been a strong FCS program, and Kent State.
Credit/condemnation must also be given to Baylor and TCU’s non-conference scheduling, as they are the only Big 12 teams to play all three of their non-league games at home this year; everyone else has a non-conference game on the way. In particular, playing at home alone is a huge advantage for Baylor, as it allows BU to play a total of eight home games this season (TCU has seven), which is obviously a clear advantage over others like West Virginia, who have only six home games. to have. play at 23.
Best non-conference matchup
All but U of H, OU, and UCF challenge themselves against Power 5 non-conference opponents. On paper, most of those P5 enemies look pretty good. In addition to WVU against Penn State and Pitt, BYU travels to Arkansas, Cincinnati hosts Pitt, Iowa State entertains Iowa in their annual rivalry, Kansas takes in Illinois, K-State is in Missouri, and Oklahoma State is on the road in Arizona State. Texas is in Alabama in a big showdown of top 20 clubs. TCU welcomes Colorado to Fort Worth for the Buffaloes first game of the Deion Sanders era. But the two most intriguing non-conference games for me include a pair of Pac-12 programs with top 20 expectations coming into Big 12 territory on September 9 to take on high-potential opponents as well as Utah in Baylor and Oregon in Texas Technology. The Mountaineers’ renewal of their old rivalry will turn heads in West Virginia and Pennsylvania early in the season, and the Longhorns vs. Crimson Tide on September 9 will draw a lot of national attention. But aside from that, the Utes vs. the Bears and the Ducks vs. the Red Raiders very interesting, as they will set the stage for league bragging rights in the first few weeks of the 23 campaign.
Worst non-conference game
Most of the 11 encounters between Big 12 teams and FCS opponents should be one-sided affairs. So does the West Virginias against Duquesne, though the Dukes have won records in seven of their last eight seasons. However, the most lopsided game on paper is Long Island at Baylor on Sept. 16. WVU defantasized the Sharks in a 66-0 blowout a few years ago. Since moving from the Division II level to FBS in 2019, LIU is only 8-27. The highest figure was 4-7 last year. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks being competitive in Waco.
Baylor and Kansas State each receive Sun Belt opponents (Texas State and Troy, respectively) the week before they face Power 5 enemies (Utah in Waco vs. BU and K-State in Missouri). Texas State rebuilds with a new head coach after going 4-8 last year, but Troy was 12-2 in 22, won the Sun Belt championship over Coastal Carolina (45-26) and then defeated UTSA (18-12) in the Cure bowl. Both feel like potential traps for the Big 12 hosts, especially Troy’s visit to K-State.